When the decision was made to make a coaching change in the Noblesville High School boys' basketball program, not everyone was on board. Certainly not all of the Miller fans.

What Noblesville basically did was replace a hall of fame coach (Dave McCollough) for what will likely be a future hall of fame coach in Brian McCauley.

What Noblesville did was replace old school for new school, if you will. Simply a new direction for a program that school administration brass thought was needed.

And the early result? So far, so good.

McCauley certainly hasn't wasted time putting his mark on the program in his first nine games, coming out of the gate with a 8-1 won-loss record.

On Monday, he directed Noblesville past No. 17 Chesterton, and then watched his Millers send Class 4A No. 9 Lawrence North to its first season setback (43-40), enabling the Millers to reach the championship game of the Noblesville Holiday Tournament through what appeared to be the toughest draw.

On Tuesday, the Millers led most of the way and knocked off once-beaten Crown Point 62-60 to hoist the championship plaque.

It marked the first time in the three years that the event wasn't round-robin play.

So to win this was, well, let's just say it was huge for the program, and a mighty sweet moment for McCauley.

It was particularly big since it was McCauley's first championship while seated on the Millers bench in his first season.

The accomplishment, and particularly the way the Millers got the job done, speaks volumes.

The Millers certainly walked the walk and talked the talk and strutted their stuff in the two-day event.

They displayed cohesiveness and great team chemistry and performed superbly in building a lead and staving off Crown Point in a contest where adrenaline flowed freely and sweaty hands were a given.

"Beating Lawrence North certainly was a signature win, but the championship was really big for our program,' McCauley said at mid-court while being greeted with hugs and handshakes from well-wishers.

"The kids, wow, they were (and are) unbelievable. I love these kids. The team chemistry and togetherness is great. We're pretty deep and not afraid to use the bench, and we got so many good efforts from all the kids, especially against Crown Point when we had some foul problems.

"The kids follow instructions and simply try and execute what we want to do. Just a very coachable group of kids.'

The Millers also have the ability to win in many different ways, though 3-point shooting and defense (they allow only 42 points per game) and an ability to adapt to what most other coaches throw at them are what they really do the best.

They displayed poise, confidence, patience and big hearts....oh such big hearts....in knocking off an extremely athletic Lawrence North squad. And they then showed what they were made of with a gutsy championship performance.

You might say the Millers played MAC BALL (as in McCauley) in the three tourney games.

That's how they got it done. They did it the way their coach drew up the game plan.

Their style was explosive at times and deliberate at times while protecting the ball. They worked hard for their shots. They hustled and dived for loose balls. They were defensive tough in taking teams out of their games. They just scrapped and scrapped, and then scrapped some more.

It was simply up-close-and-personal basketball at its best.

The preparation was masterful by McCauley, the former Kokomo Kats skipper who has a State Finals appearance on his resume. So was the execution by his Millers for the most part.

Timely shots by Joey Brewer, John Kiser and 3-point marksman Jake Mills, voted the Most Outstanding Player, were worth the price of admission. So was the finesse and pin-point passing of Sean Wilson and the ball handling and toughness of David Cory.

"Every team, even the Miami Heat, has their strengths and weaknesses. This team maximizes their strengths. This was just a tremendous effort,' McCauley said. "These kids are really fun to watch. And that Jake Mills, boy, can he ever shoot. I mean he can really shoot the ball.'

For 3A No. 2 Guerin Catholic (8-3), which lost to Crown Point and came up a couple of points short in an attempt to avenge a Dec. 19 overtime loss to Lawrence North in the third-place consolation game, an extremely athletic Matt Holba, smooth-shooting Christian Munson and hard-nosed Matt Labus were especially impressive.

The tournament was a good kick-start, a solid beginning to the rest of the season.

The Indiana high school sectional basketball tournament is more than three months away. Yet, as we enter the first week of the New Year, we've already had a taste of some always welcome and exciting tournament atmosphere.

No, we didn't get our fill of it by any means. Just a real good taste. Yep, there's plenty more to come in our basketball-crazy state, to be sure.

Based on what we witnessed in The Mill, the build-up to the 2015 state boys' basketball tournament could be special. Mighty special.

The Noblesville event offered a little bit of everything: A lot of intensity . . . There was electricity . . . There was drama . . . Good, competitive basketball . . . A real frenzy at times . . . Boisterous and spirited, rough and tumble, noisy, rowdy and energetic - and supported by a nice turnout considering school's out for the holiday season.

And especially on Tuesday night, Miller fans were everywhere!

And I wouldn't be surprised to see many more good things come from the Millers, and the Golden Eagles as the season moves forward. Both are sound ball clubs.

All three losses for Guerin have come against 4A schools. Look for coach Pete Smith to take the Golden Eagles a long way in the state tournament. A long way.

And, oh yes, don't be surprised if McCauley eventually is referred to as Coach Mac, just like what most of the fans affectionately called McCollough for many years.

The young guy is a winner, and he's earning the respect of a lot of folks while showcasing an exciting brand of basketball.

So, welcome to the land of Black and Gold, Coach Mac!



Mark Morrow, an award-winning sportswriter, and author, is in his 52nd year as a member of the Indiana media. You can follow him on Twitter @mmediamarko12. He can be reached at mark@thetimes24-7.com.